27 February 2016

from The Mysterious Record of Immovable Wisdom: Fudochishinmyoroku

Except from a letter by Takuan Sōhō
The mind that becomes fixed and stops in one place does not function freely. Similarly, the wheels of a cart go around because they are not rigidly in place. If they were to stick tight, they would not go around. The mind is also something that does not function if it becomes attached to a single situation.

If there is some thought within the mind, though you listen to the words spoken by another, you will not really be able to hear him. This is because your mind has stopped with your own thoughts.

If your mind leans in the direction of these thoughts, though you listen, you will not hear; and though you look, you will not see. This is because there is something in your mind. What is there is thought. If you are able to remove this thing that is there, your mind will become No-Mind, it will function when needed, and it will be appropriate to its use.

The mind that thinks about removing what is within it will by the very act be occupied. If one will not think about it, the mind will remove these thoughts by itself and of itself become No-Mind.

If one always approaches his mind in this way, at a later date it will suddenly come to this condition by itself. If one tries to achieve this suddenly, it will never get there.

This translation is by William Scott Wilson. If you read Musashi then you will meet Takuan Sōhō. In the same letter Takuan talks about the Right Mind being like water and the Confused Mind being like ice.

20 February 2016

Duck Soup

Serving suggestion only

This movie is a kind of comedy genius.

The whole thing is a bit dated, maybe that's why I found listening to it funnier than watching it.

Here are a few lines I remember, not necessarily verbatim.

Groucho is sweet talking a lady and telling her his vision of domestic bliss: "We could get married. I can see you right now in the kitchen, bending over a hot stove, but I can't see the stove."

I think it is Chico who says to someone: "You got a nose like a bloodhound and the rest of your face ain't that great either."

Groucho: "Three men and one woman are trapped in a building. Send help at once, if you can't send help, send two more women."

True, inside every human 
mind is a monster,
but, inside every human 
heart is an angel. 

*

Opportunity, 
where are you?

"Feel that
 My Forgiveness 
 is your all."

*

Happiness asks us
to really forget
the past. 

Happiness reminds us 
to really surrender
to the present. 

Happiness tells us
it will take care
of the future. 

*

The prayer-hands
Of My Lord
Are Infinity. 

*

Love this moment. 
It is all

*

You can try to 
change yourself,
but God is eager
to do it all for you. 

*

Don't be a fool. 
Tomorrow will not change you. 
That is the job of Today. 

*

My best friend is God. 
God's best friend
is this very feeling. 

*

Mountains rise,
but rarely fall. 

*

Plenty of people 
will misunderstand me,
Even I play this role 
quite well. 

*

Marry your 
life to Peace -
All will be well. 

*

To swear allegiance
to the mind
Is to make
firm friends
with catastrophe. 

*

Peace-worship 
completes me. 

*

With You,
I need
nothing more. 

19 February 2016

Night thoughts while travelling by Du Fu

A light breeze rustles the reeds
Along the river banks. The
Mast of my lonely boat soars
Into the night. Stars blossom 
Over the vast desert of
Waters. Moonlight flows on the
Surging river. My poems have
Made me famous but I grow
Old, ill and tired, blown hither
And yon; I am like a gull
Lost between heaven and earth. 

New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry
Translated by Kenneth Rexroth

It's funny, the book provides a different translation of the same poem and they are poles apart. I feel this one has all the feeling of the original which a more faithful rendering of the actual words can only hint at. 

You can read about Du Fu at Wikipedia. At one point, being a poet and the public service went together in China, which probably reflects the primary nature of the study required to become an official: philosophy, history and poetry. He also won the moniker Saint of Poetry and was/is very popular in Japan apparently. 

I love that one of his poems includes: "I am about to scream madly in the office / Especially when they bring more papers to pile higher on my desk." These days it is email instead. 

A poem he wrote for a friend commences:

"It is almost as hard for friends to meet
As for the morning and evening stars."

True. 




17 February 2016



Famous deer of Nara, Japan. They really are free to wander most places. You can buy crackers for them and they get pretty intense once they start eating and decide they want the rest of the packet. Accounting for this, the packaging itself was edible. The cute kids being cute are in the grounds of the famous Tōdai-ji in Nara. They are looking for tourists to do their surveys in English.



*

To pray for things
Is to forget love.
To pray for love
Is to win everything.

*

A rather sullen looking statue in Kamakura.


*

Devastating is the animal in me.
Forgetful is the human in me.
Illumining is the divine in me.

*

Alas,
How weak
is my hunger
for surrender.

*

Twice I cared for humanity.
Once when I forgot my self.
Once when I remembered My Lord.

*

Never.
Never is a difficult word.
Never to make a mistake.
Never to always succeed.

*

Small temple, Ueno, Tokyo.


*

Who fortune favours
So often forgets
They are fortunate.

*

In God's Room
I am always perfect.
In man's room
I do not know
Where I am.

*

Many times I have failed.
Many times I have succeeded.

*

This spectacular piece of topiary is in an old cemetery just behind Ueno Park. The amazing grounds were worth a good wander.


*

The coin of life has two sides
And a thin edge.

*

Two truths

Many are my enemies,
Few are my friends.

Few are my enemies,
Many are my friends.

*

No-one reaches
The frontier of the self
Without passing
Through a mind-field.

*


Somewhere in the back streets of Kyoto. Kimonos and mobile phones. Then a statue in a small temple nearby who seems to be wearing a matching bib. I never found the hand-made paper shop I was looking for.


*

The immortality of my words
Is the one true pleasure of ink.

*

The watchword
Of a happy life:
Silence.

*

It is not easy to take a good photo of a big tree -and of a tall tree it is an impossibility- so I am not saying this is that, but this mighty specimen is in the grounds of Hongan-ji in Kyoto. I love how they have placed stilts everywhere so it can just keep spreading.


*

The small hours
Have taught me everything.

*

The church of midnight
Is my house of worship.

*

Upon the walls of night are written
The mysteries of the universe.
Light the candle of the heart
To read them.

*

How do you like them apples? Nishiki Market, Kyoto.

10 February 2016

Pieces of Kyoto

Here is the Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, which no surpirse, translates as Temple of the Golden Pavillion.





These are also in Kyoto, but I'm not sure where exactly.





I still have thousands of photos from my trip, but only a few unpublished pieces of writing.

*

The journey back to Kyoto is a shock after temple-life. Leaving the island of Kyushu, the rustic friendliness seems to disappear and other tourists begin to appear on the train from Hiroshima onwards.

Even though they barely speak twenty words between them, when a small, completely innocuous group of middle-aged Spaniards enters my carriage, I find them unbearably loud and abrasive.

This feeling only lasts a few moments.

Finally arriving at Kyoto Station, burdened with a suitcase, a backpack full of electronic toys, another bag full of a teapot collection and my shakuhachi, I opt for a taxi to the guest house.

The driver does not seem the least displeased that the meter hasn't even moved from the flagfall when we stop, so I give him 1000 yen for his trouble.

It's Saturday night in Kyoto and all the popular restaurants in walking distance, and presumably good ones, have lines out the door. I choose a modest looking place which is nearly empty.

My serving of chūtoro seems meager, not so fatty, hideously over-priced and a little too cold, but the presentation is delightful, so I do my best to savour it. The vegetable tempura is excellent and the miso soup is perfect.

After I pay -for the most expensive meal I have had on my entire holiday- the owner follows me out the door and performs a deep bow in the street, for which I am totally unprepared.

Walking away, I do my best to return thanks as my heart melts.

You win Japan.

*

That was written on my final night in Japan. I really am not the sushi expert I so confidently pass myself off as.

I miss green tea chocolate being available everywhere. I tried to make my own even before my holiday, but it didn't go very well. I bought lots of it in Melbourne at Christmas, but the Asian gorcery stores are not as well stocked in Canberra.








Poems

I will start going to bed early again, a habit I lost at the Christmas break, but one I have never been very good at keeping. However, currently one of my absolutely favourite things is to write poetry at midnight. On reflection, it seems I have a complicated relationship with sleeping. 

I'm not sure what the deal with pudding is. I can't say I eat it much. Pudding makes me think of the vastly under-appreciated film, Dude, Where's My Car?

*

God is sweet,
but not like pudding,
too much pudding is not good. 

God's Sweetness
quenches the
quenchless thirst. 

*

Be a
Detachment Prince,
Not a
Drama Queen. 

*

The fate of hate
Is to be a burden. 

*

The lesson
of life
is love. 

*

Facts are narrow. 
Truth is wide. 

*

The emptiness life
is bereft of strife:
Silent mind. 

*

The heart 
is an echo chamber. 
Be careful
what you sing. 

*

In the midst of
All turbulence
I find You silent
And without alarm. 

*

The road to God's Palace is long. 
The road to hell never ends. 

*

It seems you never tire
Of your poet's worship
Just as the lover never tires
Of the beloved's face. 

*

Transformation. 
Not a cry of exultation,
but a promise of satisfaction. 

*

In Your Trance
All existence
Dances. 

*

Behold,
Thy Golden Form
Is the dawn
of my life. 

*

One moment
With You
Is never enough. 

*

Endless are the follies of man,
But ceaseless is God's guiding hand. 

*

O newness-world,
Where is
Your entire being?

*

In the temple
Of the heart 
All riches
Are to be found. 

*

O how I suffer
When the bird
of my heart
Forgets its
exuberance song. 

*

Peace
never cared
to learn understanding. 

*

What matters
is not the past. 
What matters
is not the future. 
What matters
is the present. 

*

Love is
the way of perfection
Love is
the way of protection. 
Love is
the way of redemption. 

Love is
the way of ways. 

*

Your Gold
always remains,
This is the thing,
The thing to sing. 

*

We may forget
Who we are,
As long as
we remember
What we are. 

*

Silence
is my
best companion,
Always. 

*

Silence is
my favourite meal. 

*

God's Smile
is all nourishing. 
And unconditional. 

*

The phantoms
of the mind
Love their
own wailing. 

*

What we call defeat
Is another name
For the lesson we need. 

*

What we call success
Is only one step
On the Road to Eternity. 

*

God never gets tired of smiling. 
Man never gets tired of thinking. 

*

If you want to avoid failure,
Do not sit on the ego throne. 

*

Just enter
into your highest. 
I guarantee
your journey is not over. 

*

All our notions
Will finally collapse. 

*

A brave heart
Does not have to
Race with time. 

*

Love is
always ready
to start again. 

*

Love is
always ready 
to steady the boat
of our life. 

*

Compassion is
always ready
to try again. 

*

Compassion is
always ready 
to walk
another mile. 

*

After a while,
We see there are
better things to do
than worry about
our own stupidity. 

It will still be there tomorrow
If we really want to listen to it. 

*

Imagination
Fills the sails
Of our dreams
And carries us
To a new reality. 

*

Hope is
the wind
which sustains. 

*

Thoughts
quite often
disappoint us. 

*

Dreams
need not
define us. 

Dreams
need not 
confine us. 

Dreams
sometimes
refine us. 

*

Quite often,
We discover
we are wrong. 

Wisely,
We learn 
we need not
always be right. 






06 February 2016

Ryōan-ji




The Ryōan-ji is a lot smaller than the photos you have seen may have led you to believe.

There is one particular rock which immediately recalls a monk meditating, elsewise, I found the rock garden itself a bit underwhelming. From postcards I saw, I believe cherry blossom branches grow over the garden wall in the spring.


The continual stream of visitors is not conducive to meditating. I had an interesting experience looking at a photo of it online before my visit. It made me chortle immensely and deeply. As if to say that such a thing could be symobilic of enlightenment is symbolic of our lack of enlightenment!

Nothing more.

The joke is on us.

It is an enchanting experience to walk without shoes on the temple floorboards smooth trodden by so many visitors.

Faces like this are a common feature of temple rooves. I seem to remember the water runs out of the mouth as part of the gutter sometimes.


The entire grounds are lovely, displaying charming moss and interesting pruning techniques.










A temple attendent said I could have this tiny crane when she saw me looking at a tray of them. Later I gave it to a boy I saw who looked sad because his sister had one and he didn't.


Delicious sweets on the way out.



Hints of the coming beauty of autumn leaves are beginning to appear all over Kyoto.

13 October 2015

Recent poems

I have been quite prolific lately, usually really late at night after I have shut the book of the day; although a few of these poems I wrote in Japan last year and some while walking or driving. There are pictures of some, often I rewrite them nicely the next day, but not always. The good thing about postcards, despite their size, is their size, and hence they are easy to organise.

These are in no particular order, but I counted 59. In the Quran it says something like, 'If every tree was a pen, the sea was ink and we had seven more seas the same size, it would not be enough to record the words of the Beloved, for His Wisdom is without end.'

*


*

To sing a new song
Every day
Is the heart-land
Of My Lord.

*

Inconsolable
is my mind.
Absolutely adorable
is my heart.

*

If forever I wander
In the forest of love
Never alone
With my peace-dove.

*

The tears
I cry for My Lord
Are their own reward.

*

My mind
is no stranger
to confusion.
My heart
always discards
illusion.

*


*

No other taste is like
The elixir of midnight:
The silence-brew
of love's company
Is all nectar.

*

With the evening birds
I long to fly
And so my flute
Reaches for the sky.

*

If at times I find myself alone
It is that I have forgotten to love
To lack company is no other thing.

*

The garden-heart
Is the art
Of living.

*

This world of contrasts
Is the playground
Of My Lord.

*

Just
Be quiet
And listen.

*

A little while,
We enjoy this world,
A little while,
We learn to smile.

*

I often see My God in nature,
But I only find Him within.

*

Life
is a battle
without end.

*

Peace does not flee
It only hides
Until we want play again.

*


*

Your sweet smile
is Your Love
and
the Light of
the universe.

*

O my Guru,
Nothing is so sweet
as the love we share.
Every day I bring you poison
and drink Your Nectar.

*

My poetry heart
You I crave
You I adore
My life's only shore.

*

The lesson of the ages
So long growing
So soon forgot.

*

Wherever is
my sweetness-heart
I am home.

*

Beloved,
Your prayer-heart
is my sanctuary.

*

Beloved,
Your meditation-life
is my eternal garden.

*

Without
my heart of prayer,
I am nowhere.

*


*

Many are
the songs of Your Glory.
Endless is
the life of Your Story.

*

Your silence-life
is my saviour.

*

My meditation-heart
Is the best companion
On my life's journey.

*

When I do not meditate regularly,
Your silence-heart of Bliss
is the first thing I miss.

*

Your meditation-heart
is all silence.
My mind
is all violence.

*

The mind jungle
Is all thorns.

*

In Your silence-eyes
I am prepared to discard
this disguise.

*

When the time comes,
I will forget all
my unworthiness
At Your perfection
and protection-feet.

*


*

When I visit
the fountain of wisdom,
I become an
ocean of vision.

*

Silence is a most remarkable friend -
It tells us everything.

*

For a second
I cry.
For a lifetime
I sigh.

*

My Lord,
You are quite sure,
Never more than ever-sure,
That I should waste no time
Feeling sorry for myself.

*

Do not forget,
do not forget.
How bitter the
taste of regret.

*

Too soon am I full
when I visit
the wisdom well.

*

My Lord
Is not only
immediately useful,
but always fruitful.

*

Peace is
no ordinary thing.
Peace is
no extraordinary thing.
Peace is
the only thing.

*

Instead of
always planning,
Spend more
time being.

*

Today is the only day.
Do not delay.
Do not delay.

*

God speaks many languages,
but "complaint" is a word
entirely unfamiliar to Him.

*

Many are the roads that lead nowhere
I have taken You
If always I am to suffer
Let me remember You.

*

My Lord,
How I take Your absence
as the presence of death.

Son,
How I take your presence
as the constancy of my life.

*

In the forest of My Lord
Lives my life's reward.

*

Does life need solace?
Truth demands silence.

*

One moment of forgetting
Is a lifetime of regretting.

*

Beloved,
Your Peace
is my only release.

*

Beloved,
Although this prayer is tiny,
let it be for always.

*

Beloved,
I am calling,
calling, calling.

Son, I am listening -
Always.

*

Without Peace,
A life of sorrows
You will meet.

*

The life of Grace
knows no obstacles.

*

To light the
Lamp of Eternity
in the heart
of humankind
is God's job.

To watch the
Lamp of Eternity
most faithfully
is man's job.

*

Beloved,
In You the opposites dance,
but no tension exists.
The swing of harmony
is Your Form.

*

God never loses a bet:
As man's stupidity
never admits defeat,
Neither do His
Compassion-feet.

*

ONE MOMENT

Just one moment
It only takes
one moment
in You
To become the song
of limitless satisfaction.

*

I am always surprised,
always surprised,
that my lack of capacity
is another name
for my mind's rapacity.

*

Two things are without end:
The heart of Your Compassion
And the life of my mind's noise.

*

The one
and the
only way
to happiness
is love.